A California judge just struck down Prop 22: Now what?

Every time you turn around, someone new is winning the war in California around organizing workers in the sharing economy.

Labor struck first when California legislators passed Assembly Bill 5, requiring all independent contractors working for gig economy companies to be reclassified as employees. That was expected to set off a chain reaction in state legislatures nationwide, until two things happened.

First, COVID-19 hit and quickly became all-encompassing, making it virtually impossible for lawmakers and regulators to focus on anything but surviving the pandemic. Second, Uber, Lyft, Instacart and others funded and voters approved Prop 22 in California, striking down AB-5 and returning sharing economy workers to independent contractor status.

On the same day that Prop 22 passed, Democrats captured both chambers of Congress in Washington, but their margins were so slim (50-50 in the Senate and a nine-vote majority in the House), that federal legislative action on the issue was near impossible. Across the country, politicians read the tea leaves of Prop 22 and decided to mainly stay away. That kept the issue at bay during the 2021 state legislative sessions.

But the tide started to turn again this summer. First, U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virginia) introduced the PRO Act in February 2021, stating that workers would be reclassified using an ABC test, in addition to rolling back right-to-work laws in states and establishing monetary penalties for companies and executives who violate workers’ rights.

The bill handily passed the House in March, but has since stalled in the Senate, despite receiving a hearing and energetic support by high-profile senators including Bernie Sanders and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The Biden administration’s appointees to the Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board are decidedly in favor of full-time-worker status. And now, a California Superior Court judge has ruled Prop 22 unconstitutional, saying it violates the right of the state legislature to pass future laws around worker safety and status.

The sharing economy companies are expected to appeal, and the case could ultimately wind up before the California Supreme Court.

So now what? The courts will ultimately determine the status of sharing economy workers in California, but since the decision will be about the specific legal parameters of California’s referendum process, it won’t determine the issue elsewhere. And despite noise from Washington, Congress isn’t passing the PRO Act any time soon (Democrats may try to include it in the reconciliation for the $3.5 trillion American Families Plan, but the odds of its survival are low). That means the action returns to the states.

New York is the biggest battleground outside of California. Democrats have amassed a supermajority in both chambers of the legislature, and New York lacks a referendum vehicle to overturn state law.

Sharing economy workers are the biggest organizing opportunity for private sector unions in decades, and labor will use all of its influence to pass worker classification reform in 2022.

However, Kathy Hochul, New York’s new governor, is a moderate, and state legislators recently abandoned a half-baked plan brokered by gig companies to safeguard independent contractor status, indicating a resolution on the issue will likely take time.

Illinois is fertile ground for worker reclassification, too, but the state remains a question mark.

There’s also a chance of movement in Massachusetts, where gig companies are making a play to establish a ballot initiative very similar to Prop 22. Legislators in Seattle and Pennsylvania have also signaled an interest in exploring the issue.

And just a few months after most state legislative sessions conclude next summer, we’ll hit the midterm elections, which could produce a Republican wave (especially in the House) that would yet again quash the chances of worker classification legislation passing anywhere.

In other words, this is going to ping back and forth for at least the next few years in the courts, in state legislatures, and in the halls of Congress and federal agencies. If you’re a sharing economy investor and you want this issue resolved once and for all, that peace of mind isn’t coming. And the market, rather than accepting that this will be an unresolved issue for the next few years, will probably overreact to each individual action, whether it’s a lower court ruling or a piece of legislation making its way through a state.

In reality, the answer is the same as it’s always been: trying to shoehorn sharing economy workers into one of two existing categories — 1099 or W-2 — doesn’t work. We still need to recognize that the inherent nature of work has changed over the last decade, and we need to recognize that both parties — the sharing economy companies and the unions — are only looking out for their own interests and coffers at the expense of what’s best for actual workers.

California is not going to resolve this issue. It’s just swung back and forth from one extreme to another. Congress is not going to resolve this issue because it almost never resolves anything.

So the game comes down to states like Illinois, New York and Massachusetts. It comes down to legislators and leaders trying to craft good public policy at the expense of their donors and supporters and Twitter followers — and then it comes down to their colleagues doing the same.

It means sacrificing politics for policy. That almost never happens. And it probably won’t happen here, either. So if you’re trying to game out where this issue is going, accept the uncertainty and expect that a thoughtful, smart resolution — locally or nationally — is unlikely. It’s a dissatisfying conclusion but, sadly, it epitomizes exactly where our politics stand today.

#bernie-sanders, #biden-administration, #california, #column, #congress, #government, #illinois, #labor, #lyft, #national-labor-relations-board, #new-york, #opinion, #policy, #sharing-economy, #tc, #uber, #washington

Bernie Sanders wants to stop NASA funding for Blue Origin

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VA) speaks outside the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama, on Friday, March 26, 2021.

Enlarge / Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VA) speaks outside the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama, on Friday, March 26, 2021. (credit: Andi Rice / Bloomberg / Getty Images)

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders inserted himself into the debate about NASA’s Artemis Program on Monday.

The independent and two-time presidential candidate did so by submitting an amendment to the Endless Frontier Act, which is now under consideration by the full Senate. Sanders’ amendment, No. 1925, has a simple purpose, “To eliminate the multi-billion dollar Bezos Bailout.”

The “bailout” in question refers to an earlier amendment filed to the Endless Frontier Act during a committee meeting earlier this month. Overall, the Endless Frontier Act is primarily about advancing US scientific and research efforts, but it has become fettered with modifications by US senators. Sanders is seeking to strip language from an amendment that has already been successfully attached to the scientific act.

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#amazon, #bernie-sanders, #blue-origin, #nasa, #science

New privacy bill would end law enforcement practice of buying data from brokers

A new bill known as the Fourth Amendment is Not for Sale Act would seal up a loophole that intelligence and law enforcement agencies use to obtain troves of sensitive and identifying information to which they wouldn’t otherwise have legal access.

The new legislation, proposed by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY), would require government agencies to obtain a court order to access data from brokers. Court orders are already required when the government seeks analogous data from mobile providers and tech platforms.

“There’s no reason information scavenged by data brokers should be treated differently than the same data held by your phone company or email provider,” Wyden said. Wyden describes the loophole as a way that police and other agencies buy data to “end-run the Fourth Amendment.”

Paul criticized the government for using the current data broker loophole to circumvent Americans’ constitutional rights. “The Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure ensures that the liberty of every American cannot be violated on the whims, or financial transactions, of every government officer,” Paul said.

Critically, the bill would also ban law enforcement agencies from buying data on Americans when it was obtained through hacking, violations of terms of service or “from a user’s account or device.”

That bit highlights the questionable practices of Clearview AI, a deeply controversial tech company that sells access to a facial recognition search engine. Clearview’s platform collects pictures of faces scraped from across the web, including social media sites, and sells access to that data to police departments around the country and federal agencies like ICE.

In scraping their sites for data to sell, Clearview has run afoul of just about every major social media platform’s terms of service. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google have all denounced Clearview for using data culled from their services and some have even sent cease-and-desists ordering the data broker to stop.

The bill would also expand privacy laws to apply to infrastructure companies that own cell towers and data cables, seal up workarounds that allow intelligence agencies to obtain metadata from Americans’ international communications without review by a FISA court and ensure that agencies seek probable cause orders to obtain location and web browsing data.

The bill, embedded below, isn’t just some nascent proposal. It’s already attracted bipartisan support from a number of key co-sponsors, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side and Republicans Mike Lee and Steve Daines. A House version of the legislation was also introduced Wednesday.

 

#bernie-sanders, #cell-towers, #chuck-schumer, #clearview-ai, #facial-recognition, #google, #government, #mass-surveillance, #rand-paul, #ron-wyden, #tc

Big banks rush to back Greenwood, Killer Mike’s Atlanta-based digital bank for underrepresented customers

Before even taking its first deposit, Greenwood, the digital banking service targeting Black and Latino individuals and business owners, has raised $40 million — only a few months after its launch.

Coming in to finance the new challenger bank are six of the seven largest U.S. Banks and the payment technology developers Mastercard and Visa.

That’s right, Bank of America, PNC, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Truist, are backing a bank co-founded by a man who declared, “I’m with the revolutionary. I’m with the radical policy,” when stumping for then Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Joining the financial services giants in the round are FIS, a behind-the-scenes financial services tech developer; along with the venture capital firms TTV Capital, SoftBank Group’s SB Opportunity Fund, and Lightspeed Venture Partners. Sports investors Quality Control and All-Pro NFL running back Alvin Kamara also came in to finance the latest round.

Atlanta-based Greenwood was launched last October by a group that included former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young and Bounce TV founder, Ryan Glover.

“The net worth of a typical white family is nearly ten times greater than that of a Black family and eight times greater than that of a Latino family. This wealth gap is a curable injustice that requires collaboration,” said \ Glover, Chairman and Co-founder of Greenwood, in a statement. “The backing of six of the top seven banks and the two largest payment technology companies is a testament to the contemporary influence of the Black and Latino community. We now are even better positioned to deliver the world-class services our customers deserve.”

Named after the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Okla., which was known as the Black Wall Street before it was destroyed in a 1921 massacre, the digital bank promises to donate the equivalent of five free meals to an organization addressing food insecurity for every person who signs up to the bank. And every time a customer uses a Greenwood debit card, the bank will make a donation to either the United Negro College FundGoodr (an organization that addresses food insecurity) or the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

In addition, each month the bank will provide a $10,000 grant to a Black or Latinx small business owner that uses the company’s financial services.

“Truist Ventures is helping to inspire and build better lives and communities by leading the Series A funding round for Greenwood’s innovative approach to building greater trust in banking within Black and Latino communities,” said Truist Chief Digital and Client Experience Officer Dontá L. Wilson who oversees Truist Ventures, in a statement. “In addition to the opportunity to work with and learn from this distinguished group of founders, our investment in Greenwood is reflective of our purpose and commitment to advancing economic empowerment of minority and underserved communities.”

So far, 500,000 people have signed up for the wait list to bank with Greenwood.

#andrew-young, #atlanta, #bank, #bank-of-america, #banking, #bernie-sanders, #challenger-bank, #companies, #finance, #financial-services, #fis, #greenwood, #jpmorgan-chase, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #mastercard, #mayor, #national-football-league, #nfl, #oklahoma, #softbank-group, #tc, #tulsa, #united-states, #venture-capital-firms, #visa, #wells-fargo

Nine senators — including Warren and Sanders — pen open letter to Amazon about worker firings

A group of nine Senators led by Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren penned an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos this week, seeking more information about recent employee firings. The statement cites the terminations of four employees who were vocally critical of the company’s policies pertaining to both COVID-19 and climate change.

Cosigned by Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Sherrod Brown, Kirsten Gillibrand, Ed Markey, Richard Blumenthal and Tammy Baldwin, the letter notes:

Given the clear public history of these four workers’ advocacy on behalf of health and safety conditions for workers in Amazon warehouses preceding their terminations, and Amazon’s vague public statements regarding violations of “internal policies,” we are seeking additional information to understand exactly what those internal policies are.

It poses nine questions, asking Bezos and Amazon to respond by May 20. The senators single out the firings of Christian Smalls, Bashir Mohamed, Maren Costa and Emily Cunningham, all of whom have been publicly critical of the company’s handling of COVID-19. A number of the above have stated publicly that they believe their terminations were directly linked to the whistleblowing — something Amazon has strongly denied.

“We support every employee’s right to criticize their employer’s working conditions,” the company said in a statement offered to TechCrunch at the time, “but that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies. We terminated these employees for repeatedly violating internal policies.”

Amazon lost another employee when VP Tim Bray publicly left the company on May 1, and workers across the country were striking over working conditions.

“[R]emaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised,” Bray wrote. “So I resigned. The victims weren’t abstract entities but real people; here are some of their names: Courtney Bowden, Gerald Bryson, Maren Costa, Emily Cunningham, Bashir Mohammed, and Chris Smalls. I’m sure it’s a coincidence that every one of them is a person of color, a woman, or both. Right?”

The letter echoes Bray’s concerns about inequality at the company, asking, “Do Amazon tech workers, Amazon warehouse workers, and Amazon executives have the same discipline and termination policies?”

This isn’t the first time the senators have pushed back against Amazon. Sanders helped lead the push for a $15 minimum wage at the company, while Warren noted her desire to break up the company (along with Google and Facebook) during her 2020 presidential bid.

For its part, Amazon has been very conscious of the messaging around its coronavirus response in recent weeks. It played a prominent role in both Bezos’s annual shareholder letter and the company’s earnings report. Earlier this week, another warehouse employee died after testing positive for the virus. As of mid-April, workers in at least 74 Amazon warehouses had tested positive.

We’ve reached out to the company for comment on the letter.

#amazon, #bernie-sanders, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #elizabeth-warren, #health

Stocks rally again as new COVID-19 cases show signs of slowing

All major indices rose Wednesday, led by the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which increased 3.44% to close above 23,000 for the first time since March 13.

Investors seemed heartened by comments made by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, who said Wednesday that the U.S. death count from COVID-19 is lower than initially modeled thanks. He warned that the death count will continue to climb even as new cases slow.

The action Wednesday followed rallies earlier this week. Still, it should be noted that the Dow Jones Industrial Average still closed below yesterday’s high of 23,537.44, suggesting that this could be a bear market run.

Here’s the breakdown at closing:

  • Dow Jones rose 3.44%, or 779.71 points, to close at 23,433.57
  • S&P 500 increased 3.41%, or 90.57, to close at 2,749.98
  • NASDAQ popped 2.58%, or 203.64 points, to close at 8,090.90

Equities were also buoyed by oil prices and news that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, whose policies fueled concerns about higher taxes, was dropping out of the race.

The transportation saw a bump today. Uber rose 4.66% to close at $26.94. That’s still more than 34.7% below this year’s high of $41.27 reached in February. Meanwhile, Lyft also saw shares rise 7.78% to close at $29.64. Again, it’s the same story as Uber. Lyft’s share price is still off — about 45% — from the year-to-date highs.

Among today’s leaders were airlines, which have been one of the harder hit industries in this COVID-19 era. United led the pack with a 12.38% bump to close at $27.51, followed by American Airlines and Delta, which rose 109.% and 4.4% respectively. Tesla had a volatile day that ended nearly where it began, with a 0.62% increase to close at $548.84.

Automakers also saw shares rise. GM shares rose 8.59% to close at $23.13, while Ford increased 6.59% to $5.03 and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles closed up 3.15% to $7.86 a share.

#american-airlines, #automotive, #bernie-sanders, #director, #dow, #dow-jones-industrial-average, #dow-jones, #tc, #united-states

US-Vorwahlen – Bloomberg, Sanders und Biden im TV-Krieg

USA: Vorwahlen der Demokraten – Biden, Bloomberg und Sanders bekriegen sich im TV Eine Woche vor dem Super Tuesday gingen sich die Kandidaten der Demokraten live im TV an den Kragen.
Foto: JONATHAN ERNST / Reuters

#bernie-sanders, #biden-joe, #democratic-party, #politik-ausland, #trump-donald, #us-wahlkampf